What are you using to fit market animals?

(The following information was prepared by Ohio State University Extension veterinarians Gary Bowman and William Shulaw.)

As quality assurance training sessions are being held around Ohio, it may be a good time to make youth exhibitors, advisers, and other responsible adults aware that the use of some grooming products on market animals may have unexpected consequences.

Potential harm.

We were recently informed that seven hogs were condemned at slaughter because they had been sprayed with a “fitting” product in an attempt to cover reddened areas on white hogs.

One of the ingredients in this fitting preparation was methylene chloride, a chemical considered a “potential occupational carcinogen” by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The USDA inspector at the plant asked the packer to provide evidence that the ingredients in the fitting product had no harmful effect on the meat, otherwise the hogs would be condemned. Obviously, the time and effort to show the product was safe to use on food-producing animals was far in excess of the value of seven hogs.

In this case, the exposure of the hogs to chemicals of unknown safety immediately before harvest was sufficient grounds for condemnation, and no evidence of a residue was required.

Needless to say, the exhibitor of the condemned hogs felt he had been led astray. He bought a fitting product from a vendor to whiten areas of sunburn on his hogs only to be notified later that the hogs were deemed unfit for human consumption because that product had been used on them.

Check your show box.

Another fitting product containing toluene has been seen in show boxes. This is also a chemical known to be harmful to humans.

Which fitting products are acceptable to use on market animals? You may find products available in catalogs, magazines, and farm supply stores with labels stating something like “an aid in preparation of hogs and cattle for exhibition.”

Seemingly this indicates the product would be safe for use on food-producing animals.

However, as most of these products make no therapeutic claim, they are not regulated or approved by the FDA, EPA, or USDA. With no treatment claim, these products may be sold with little or no safety testing, and the labeling does not have to conform to standards for medicinal products.

As pointed out above, some grooming aids may contain ingredients known to be harmful to humans. If a livestock inspector or the packer becomes aware of their use, the producer may be asked to “prove” the ingredient does not affect the meat, milk or eggs harvested from the animal.

Stay away from them.

Products like super glue, WD-40, fruit tree sprays (captan), paints, and hair dyes have also been used on animals as grooming aids or for other purposes. These products are not intended for animal use and could result in an adulterated food product and/or condemnation.

We believe the most appropriate recommendation regarding the use of grooming and fitting products on food-producing animals is to avoid using anything for which you cannot provide evidence that the food derived from the animal is safe.

It has been established in a court case that an animal raised for the purpose of producing food for human consumption is considered “food” from the day it is born, not just the last month or so before harvest.

This means even though the exhibitor owns the animal, he must follow all rules for medications and treatments while the animal is in his possession, in addition to ensuring that all withdrawal times are observed.

Once again, evidence of the illegal act is sufficient for condemnation of the animal or product irrespective of a residue.

Human inhalant risk.

Of additional concern is the inhalation exposure of the exhibitors to the chemicals in the preparations. Methylene chloride is used as an aerosol propellant while toluene is often found in glues, paints and sealants.

The National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety recommends protective respirators be worn for both toluene and methylene chloride when present at any detectable concentration in an occupational setting.

While the release of these chemicals from a spray can does not create the sustained exposure levels found in manufacturing environments, NIOSH does recommend that exposure to these chemicals should be avoided where possible.

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